Teenager targeted same-sex couple on bus ‘because he thought they were lesbians’
A 17-year-old boy who harassed a same-sex couple on a night bus targeted them because he believed they were lesbians, a judge has ruled.
Melania Geymonat and Christine Hannigan were attacked shortly after 2.15am by a group of teenagers on May 30 while on a date.
CCTV of the incident showed the pair were surrounded, hit with coins, punched and subjected to sexual gestures while travelling on the top deck of the N31 bus in north London.
On Thursday, three teenage boys – aged 15, 16 and 17 – admitted using threatening or abusive words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress against the two women shortly before trial.
But the 17-year-old, who cannot be named due to his age, denied he was hostile towards the women based on their sexual orientations.
The teenager, who did not speak to the couple at any point, approached the women later than his co-defendants.
After laughing and joking with the other teenagers, he was handed coins by the 15-year-old, who made a sexual scissoring gesture towards the women.
The 17-year-old was later involved in a scuffle with Ms Hannigan and others at the back of the bus, the judge found.
Appearing at Highbury Corner Youth Court on Friday, the teenager said he approached the women later than the rest of the group did because the conversation seemed “friendly”.
David Wood, representing the teenager, asked: “Did it ever occur to you that they may have been on a date or gay or lesbian?”
“Not at the beginning,” the teenager replied, giving evidence from behind a screen.
The 17-year-old told the court Ms Hannigan was crouched at the front of the bus pretending to vomit in an attempt to get the group to leave her and Ms Geymonat alone.
CCTV footage played in court showed the teenager making a non-sexual gesture towards his throat.
He said: “I thought it would be fun to take the p*** out of her for fake vomiting at the time.“
The 17-year-old maintained he only threw one coin, rather than three as Ms Hannigan said earlier on Friday.
Mr Wood said: “Did you throw the coin because you thought those two women were gay?”
“Of course not,” he replied.
Mr Wood said the teenager was immature and not motivated by hostility when he threw the coins at Ms Hannigan.
“He was 17 and just being stupid,” Mr Wood said.
“They have got over excited in a puerile, immature way over the fact that these women were in some sort of relationship.”
Mr Wood continued: “He is not there out to fight with people or attack them because they are homosexual.”
But District Judge Susan Williams found that the 17-year-old’s role in the incident was motivated by hostility towards their sexuality.
Passing judgment she said: “I am quite sure this was a hostile act however I also have to be sure that you were hostile because Ms Hannigan was a lesbian.
“In other words that you were picking on her because of who she was and not just fooling around.
“I have come to the short conclusion that is exactly what you were doing.”
She added: “Those two ladies were being harassed, pestered and intimidated because of who they were.
“I am quite sure you were joining in that behaviour.”
The 17-year-old was sentenced to a four-month youth rehabilitation order and is barred from contacting his co-defendants over the same period.
He will also face 20 hour reparation requirement, similar to community service, and a two week curfew.
Judge Williams also suggested he write a letter of apology to the two women.
Two 15 and 16-year-olds who did not contest the prosecution’s case will be sentenced next month.